Team Health Score

How to Define Your Team Purpose and Goals Using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

team purpose

Defining an organization’s purpose often appears daunting at first glance. Looking at the big picture raises an almost insurmountable bar. It’s not just a matter of setting team goals. It also involves scrutinizing a company’s culture to develop a concrete plan that determines its direction in the near and distant future.

Using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology provides a road map that makes defining an organization’s purpose achievable, measurable, and fluid. The process gives every individual a purpose at work that can make it more fulfilling and motivating. When everyone has skin in the game, it can increase employee engagement that can, in turn, encourage retention.

The Purpose of the Purpose

The purpose is the foundation of teamwork. It defines the specific reason behind an organization’s mission that eliminates any confusion about what every employee is working toward. In the process, it optimizes the workflow and encourages clear communication. The purpose exists at the company, team, and individual levels, although each one has different goals contributing to the whole.

It’s also human nature. After all, it makes evolutionary sense to use your resources and energy wisely. The alternative is wasting your time and effort on ineffective strategies. People want well-defined goals instinctively. Having a purpose puts the team in teamwork. It’s the primary responsibility of the leader to steer the ship while encouraging everyone to row the boat.

It is only through dedication and perseverance that an organization can meet its goals. Its purpose is the fuel that drives it.

The Disconnect and Its Consequences

The bond between the purpose and goals looks simple enough on paper. Unfortunately, a disconnect exists between the mission and its implementation. The Gallup State of the Workplace Report contains some sobering facts that show the extent of the disconnect between the two.

Only one-third of employees are actively engaged in their jobs.

Less than one-quarter of workers feel that management motivates them to do their best work.

Even more troubling is the fact that only 22 percent think that their organization has a clear direction.

Without a well-defined purpose, it’s nearly impossible to make the best use of your staff and resources. The consequence is up to $605 billion in lost productivity, to say nothing of forfeited revenue and missed opportunities to grow your business.

However, the wake-up call for clarity doesn’t end there. COVID-19 has also upended the workplace with unanticipated consequences. Two years into the pandemic, employers are faced with mounting staff shortages and what HR managers are calling the Great Resignation.

Part of the reason that employees are looking for other jobs is to find the fulfillment that their current positions are failing to provide. Workers are questioning the purpose of organizations, meaning that their reputation and brand are part of the mix. Employees also want to do their best while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. All of these things point to a well-defined purpose.

The Process of Developing Team Goals

The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology offers an excellent strategy to begin your journey to success. Just like your objective is clear goals, the path to achieving this aim also must be well-defined to facilitate the process. The essential thing to understand about determining your organization’s purpose is that it’s provisional and a living entity. It grows with your company.

You’ll never see this document with the phrase “The End” on the last page.

1. Review of Existing Documentation

The chances are that plenty of documentation already exists about your organization’s mission. However, it’s equally likely that the vision has evolved through the years with different management styles and objectives. Your task is to find the common threads that define your company. There probably exists input from individuals with different ideas about the business’ direction at various times.

We suggest looking at both internal and public documentation. Part of the process of defining your purpose is to make sure that both are in alignment for optimal transparency. That is essential for your brand and to ensure that your staff understands the underlying mission. Bear in mind that over one-third of employees value what an organization contributes to society and its trustworthiness to others.

2. Summary of the Organization’s Mission

The next step is to drill down the common themes to define your organization’s mission clearly and succinctly. It’s the essence of transparency that consumers look for in companies. It also provides a gauge from which to evaluate any other documentation, marketing, or website content your team creates. 

The goal is one voice with one message. 

Unclear expectations are one of the main reasons that employees feel unmotivated and disengaged in their jobs. Having a definitive purpose and mission statement is the single best way to set the groundwork for effective and productive teamwork. It also fosters an environment to create employee meaning.

3. Development of a 12-Month Goal With OKRs

The foundation of OKRs includes many of the principles you may associate with SMART goals. The crux is clarity and transparency. Your task at this step is to develop specific objectives at the company level first. You can define ambitious objectives. That sets the benchmark for subsequent key results at the team and individual levels. These are measurable and more concrete. 

The objectives set the stage, with the results determining the success. After all, you must have some way of gauging whether you’ve achieved your goals. Saying that you want to increase sales by 10 percent is more meaningful than saying we have to make more money. How much is enough? When do you push harder or pull up the reins?

If you set a number, your mind will subconsciously move toward that milestone because it has a direction. 

It also provides fodder for you and your team to brainstorm about goals. However, don’t worry about the path to success at this point—yet. The rest will fall into place. The process moves seamlessly from general to specific. These 12-month goals can be simple, such as the launching of a new product line, building your customer loyalty program, or increasing leads by 10 percent.

The objectives set the expectation, while the key results determine if you’ve achieved it.

4. Quarterly Milestones

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with an annual list of objectives and key results. It’s often a result of focusing on the forest instead of the trees. People look at the end without considering the path to get to it. Scanning a list of a dozen things to do would shake anyone’s motivation. The project seems too large and too much work to ever get it done. It’s simply too overwhelming.

That’s where quarterly milestones come to the plate.

This step involves taking your objectives and key results and breaking them into bite-sized pieces. For example, if your goal is a 10-percent jump in leads, figure out what that means quarterly and monthly. Instead of facing 120 new ones, you’re looking at 10 a month to divide among your team. That’s much more obtainable than the latter. It’s also less likely to trigger procrastination.

It also is an excellent motivator. Producing results and meeting expectations is satisfying. It’s also a great time to reward your team’s efforts. Remember that another source of organizational stress is an effort-reward imbalance. Employees want to do their best and get the benefits of achieving it. Quarterly milestones keep meeting objectives and key results on the front burner.

5. Role Assignment

You have your objective and the means to know that you’ve succeeded. The next step toward realizing your goals is to divvy out the work. That’s where it’s vital to consider the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Giving everyone on your team the same goal isn’t always the best strategy. Undoubtedly, some people do better at certain tasks than others.

Help boost your employees’ job satisfaction by aligning their goals with the things they do best.

It’s also essential to involve your people in the process. Less than 30 percent of employees feel that their managers seek their input when making these decisions. That represents a lost opportunity to engage your staff and give them skin in the game. That can be disastrous for an organization with today’s high rate of employee attrition.

If we go back to our team example, that 10 leads a month increase is much more attainable when you divide it among five team members. After all, success begets success. However, it’s also essential to keep the goals in line with your team’s abilities. If they continually meet their expectations, it’s probably time to raise the bar to a 70-percent completion rate to maintain their motivation.

6. Improvement Over Time

It’s a critical error to assume that the OKRs you create today will suffice in the months or years ahead. COVID-19 was a prime example of how things can change on a dime. It’s also a glaring example of how many organizations were unprepared for this kind of upheaval. We’re still feeling the aftershocks that will likely last for decades.

Ideas on paper don’t always transcend to real life. That’s why any OKR plan needs to incorporate refinement. Trends drive the marketplace with life events at the wheel. That’s why a team’s purpose has to have a fluid element to it. An organization must be able to adapt to changing times. It must also respond to itself and the sometimes erroneous expectations it sets.

If current events have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t stand still while life moves forward. Doing so will leave you in the rearview mirror. The Environmental Management System (EMS) for organizations to assess their impact provides a helpful lesson. Checking and modifying are a part of the process. It succeeds because it recognizes the dynamic element of the EMS.

Stagnation and an inability to change are the worst threats to any organization. That’s why a company’s purpose is a living statement about its societal role rather than an unshakeable dogma. You can think of it as a shark. It must always move to exist.

Software to Support Your Journey

Even though we’ve broken down the OKR process into actionable steps, it still may seem challenging. Fortunately, you’ll find many software programs that can help you improve communication among your team members and keep everyone focused on the same objectives and key results. They can track the latter in real time to pivot as necessary to stay on track.

Asana.com has a user-friendly interface for keeping teams on point with several valuable features, such as workload views, shared calendars, and portfolios for tracking objectives and key results.

15Five focuses on performance assessment to allocate your resources to the best levels. We liked its emphasis on engagement building for the long-term benefits of tracking project status.

Culture Amp brings employee development tools into the mix. That is a benefit that many workers want from their employers. It will help them make more money and advance to higher positions in their organization. It’s the proverbial win-win because it enhances employee engagement.

Office Vibes puts trust to the forefront, emphasizing tasks such as one-to-one meetings to improve communication. That’s a vital part of building trust to relieve job insecurity fears. That’s especially critical, given the COVID-19 situation.

Lattice works well with the OKR approach to keep everyone on the same page with these goals. It looks at all levels of the plan, which makes it easier for employees to stay in touch.

We love the tagline of Betterworks to close the loop. Let’s talk and work together is its premise. It allows employees to speak honestly about their work experience. That helps employers build a safer and more trustworthy workplace.

Putting the Package Together

It used to be that you just fell in line with an organization without questioning anything about its purpose or contribution to society. Things have changed for the better. Now, employees can expect to find a louder voice in their job roles and the direction for the company. Society benefits from this pivotal move to listen to its workforce.

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